The following is a modified version of a letter that I wrote to my wife for our anniversary. It appeared in article form on Catholic Exchange on Monday, February 15, 2021. I am grateful to CE for publishing my work!
My beloved and I celebrate fifteen years of marriage this year. I am so happy and grateful to be celebrating this anniversary with her!
As this anniversary has approached, I have spent much time praying and reflecting on our attempt to live our marriage for each other’s good and according to God’s plan. I have envisioned it as an ongoing wedding feast, and I think the story of the wedding feast at Cana provides an amazing lens through which we can see our own marriage. There is so much in that episode that applies to and illuminates our fifteen-year journey, or anyone else’s marriage journey.
The very first words of the biblical story are “on the third day….” Of course, there is another miracle that happened “on the third day.” When I read these words, right away, I connect them to the Resurrection. With that event in mind, I think of how much better my life is because my wife and I fell in love and chose to enter into this wonderful sacrament of marriage. Our relationship, and the grace it has brought, definitely has been the biggest part of my own resurrection to new life. I pray that it is the same for her!
Early in this story, I read, “Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples.” This conveys to me that a healthy, holy, and “successful” marriage brings Jesus and the Church to the very center. That certainly has been our effort over a decade and a half. I am forever grateful that my wife helped me find my way to the fullness of faith in Jesus and the Church. I don’t know what would have become of my life without it. I love walking this pilgrimage of faith with her by my side, and I very much hope that she will promise to keep walking next to me!
Related to this, I read the little detail that “the mother of Jesus was there.” Growing up as a nominal Christian and spending several years in debauched living like the prodigal son, I did not know the grace, beauty, and power of having a relationship with our Blessed Mother. Now, after walking with my wife, seeing her growing devotion to Our Lady, and daily consecrating ourselves to her, I surely know the importance of having the mother of our Lord invited to our marriage. She has helped and taught us so much; and I know that she still has much to teach and to give us.
Following this is a short phrase that has left a deeper impression upon me than any other. I read, “When the wine failed….” Wine, we know, is a symbol of joy and spiritual fruitfulness. But can joy run out in a marriage such as ours? My wife and I certainly know that we have struggled, even recently, to find such joy. It has seemed at times that God’s fruit in our lives is running out. Yet, we believe and we know that God’s grace will not fail. Even if we run low on joy or fruitfulness, He can and will make up what we lack, even what is lacking from each of us to the other. I pray that God is always filling up for my wife what I lack.
Then I lay my eyes on what is perhaps the most daunting command anywhere: “Do whatever he tells you.” This is, of course, the ultimate description of our life of discipleship. We must follow the will and commands of Jesus. For all of my adult life as a Catholic, and for fifteen years of marriage, I have always tried to do this, and I know that my beloved have as well. Certainly, I have not always been successful. I have fallen short, and for those times I have begged her forgiveness. Every day, Jesus tells me to get up, try again, and keep going. I want to heed His direction.
Next, we come to a detail that might puzzle us a bit; we read of the six stone jars. To what can these jars be compared? We might analogize them to the various areas of our lives that vie for our time, energy, and other resources. These are also the things that effect how spouses relate to each other. I think every marriage has six such areas: our family, both immediate and extended; our personalities and temperaments; resources for living (time, energy, food, etc.); our various education, training, and work; our financial outlook and our use of money; our sexuality. Any one of these areas might be a trigger for spouses. Any one of these areas might provide an opportunity to improve how we treat each other. Ultimately, these are the areas that need to be filled. Let’s hope that we recognize those opportunities, and that those areas of our lives get filled with more of the Lord and less of us.
Jesus commanded the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” We try to fill up each of those six areas of life with our own talents, resources, and efforts. As we know all to well, that can get us only a little way on this arduous pilgrimage. Sometimes, at the end of a long, hectic week, we barely even have any water to put into one or more of those areas of life. Still, we know that the grace of God is at work, transforming our natural tendencies and abilities into the “good wine” that He wants to serve others through us. I pray continually that God will serve “good wine” to my wife through me.
I also notice a detail that isn’t written. The servants filled the jars with water, drew it out, and took it to the steward as water. It was along the way that it became wine. The servants really had no clue what was happening. They must have been shocked when they witnessed the new reality, liquid that went in as water and was drawn out as wine. Likewise, we really can be astounded when we come to know how Jesus has transformed our lives, even when we haven’t realized it along the way. I hope that I have put the water of my life at His disposal and my wife’s. I hope that I continue to do whatever He tells me to be a good husband, so that she gets to taste the delicious wine that He wants to serve to her. I know and love that she desires and tries to do the same for me.
We have been married for fifteen years. We have invited Our Blessed Lord and His Holy Church. We have invited Our Blessed Mother. We have recognized, and continue to recognize, our faults and our weaknesses. We make every effort to turn over the areas of our lives to the Lord’s direction. With these as our guiding lights, by God’s grace, I pray that we have saved the better wine for the next fifteen years and more of our marriage. I love my wife dearly, and I will always do my best to serve the best wine, to bring joy to her life, until death do us part.